Utah Inmates Allowed Release to Attend Family Funerals

Inmates who are incarcerated in Utah may be eligible for early release to attend the funeral of a family member if certain criteria are met.

Incarcerated and isolated

Photo by: marina

Utah inmates, especially those incarcerated several hours away from home often feel cut off with their only communication being in the form of phone calls, edited mail, and the occasional supervised visits (if their family is able to travel). When the death of a family member occurs, inmates may feel at a loss as to how they can be there to console and grieve with their loved ones.

Death of a family member

While most inmates remain incarcerated throughout their entire sentence unless out early on parole, the death of a family member could open a temporary window for an inmate to be eligible for early release. There are certain criteria that must be met in order for the inmate to be released to attend a family funeral however.

Guidelines for early release

According to the State of Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, “The board will not consider inmate requests for early prison release to attend the funeral of a family member unless all of the following conditions are present:

Photo by : Don LaVange

• The inmate is within 120 days of his/her parole or termination date.
• The current incarceration is for a non-violent offense (or offenses).
• The institution does not consider the inmate a disciplinary problem.
• The funeral is for an immediate family member, which may include:
– Parent
– Step-parent
– Spouse
– Child
– Sibling
– Grandparent
– Grandchild
• The inmate or someone on his/her behalf, provides proof of the family member’s death/funeral.
• All phone calls/inquiries related to early release for funeral attendance shall be routed to the H.O.O.D. [hearing officer of the day] who shall review the circumstances and route the matter to the Board after determining that the above-referenced conditions are met. ( . . . ).”

Family members who believe their incarcerated loved one may be eligible for release to attend a funeral are encouraged to check the required conditions and contact the AP&P immediately.

Changes Finally in Store for Utah’s Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP)

After years of the supply for therapy not matching the demand, changes are finally in store for Utah’s sex offender treatment program (SOTP).

One case of many

Waiting

Photo by: Craig Sunter

Speaking with the family of an inmate housed at Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison Utah, their family member has served four years of a one to 15 year sentence for a second degree, sexual related crime. In four years since he was incarcerated, the inmate has waited to attend the Sex Offender Treatment Program without actually making it onto the waiting list. The inmate went before a parole board and was denied immediately after it was determined he had not finished (or even started) the treatment for sex offenders. Months after his parole hearing, the inmate’s name was finally added to the waiting list for the Sex Offender Treatment Program, with therapy expected to begin in 18 long months. After continuing to wait and eventually completing the treatment program, this particular inmate will have served more than half his maximum sentence before there is even a chance at him becoming eligible for parole. Sadly, this is not an uncommon fate among sex offenders currently lost in the prison population.

Waiting for help

According to the Utah Department of Corrections, “Nearly one-third of the inmates in Utah’s prison system are serving time for a sexual offense.” Many of the inmates who are incarcerated for sexual related offenses have been so for years without any behavioral therapy to aid them in their rehabilitation. Utah has a sex offender treatment program in place, however it has recently been determined that there were serious failings in the system, including the way it was being managed, operated, and funded. After decades of using a flawed system, changes are finally on the horizon.

No funding

One of the first problems to note with the current Sex Offender Treatment Program is the lack of funding. The amount of inmates needing treatment for sexual crimes has grown rapidly over the last twenty years without the funding increasing at all during this time. Not only has funding remained stagnant for the sex offender treatment program, a special housing facility meant to house sex offenders while they receive treatment was closed two years ago when the state was unable, or unwilling, to staff it. The sex offender treatment program was then moved to the Utah State Prison in Draper to be poorly managed while those needing treatment are scattered at other facilities around the state to await treatment. The cost of housing those inmates is great in comparison to the cost of treating them.

“Fundamental flaws”

Utah Department of Corrections recently discovered through a performance audit of the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) that there were “fundamental flaws in the way the SOTP was operating”. The program was outdated, the therapists were underpaid or underqualified, and the sex offenders receiving treatment were receiving a standard blanket therapy and not one tailored to their specific needs. Fortunately, the old director of the Sex Offender Treatment Program has been reassigned and a new director more suited for the job is eager to make changes.

Changes for sex offender treatment program (SOTP)

According to an article posted by the UDC, several changes are set to take place in the Sex Offender Treatment Program. They plan to use “an evidence-based program using cognitive-behavioral approached combined with a relapse prevention approach.” This new approach will help those who are high risk, low risk, disabled, as well as provide help following completion of treatment. They also stated that “other SOTP changes include:

• Conducting rigorous, real-time, and continuous risk assessments of the participants to ensure that the program is working effectively, which include following industry guidelines.
• New processes/criteria for entering, suspending and removing from treatment including removing punitive measures for treatment termination.
• Increased communication with the Board of Pardons and Parole and improved processes to reduce therapists’ administrative tasks for reports so they can focus on treating offenders.
• Introducing on-site aftercare services for offenders to access ongoing counseling, psychotherapy, and meetings in a modified Therapeutic Community setting.
• Implementing a strategic plan with goals, objectives, performance measures and evaluations for the SOTP.
• Adjusting position titles and roles to match the industry standards, treatment team’s duties and responsibilities.
• Working with the Department of Human Resource Management to determine competitive pay for psychologists. “

For those currently facing time for a sexual related crime, there is hope for proper and prompt treatment in the future. Those who are already incarcerated should see the effects of these changes shortly.

Life After a Conviction: Collateral Consequences After Being Released

Ex-convicts who have been arrested and sentenced in Utah may face what are known as collateral consequences after being released back into the community; making life after a conviction miserable for those attempting to rebuild their lives.

Criminal penalties and time served

Photo by: Blogtrepeneur

Every crime that is committed is countered with legal ramifications that range from probation and community service to a hefty fine and predetermined stint behind bars. Criminal penalties are a direct consequence of a conviction and can vary depending on what law has been broken and whether or not there are multiple charges or subsequent offenses. Once a defendant is sentenced for their wrong-doing, they then carry out their sentence as a sort of legal penance for their misconducts.

Almost free – AP&P

Often when someone has been sentenced or following a period of incarceration, they are sometimes released early on what is known as either probation or parole; both of which grant a convicted person restricted freedom. There are special conditions attached to being on probation and parole that a convicted individual must follow in order to retain their pseudo independence and work towards their complete release. According to the Utah Department of Corrections, the conditions of probation and parole may include:

• Abstaining from controlled substances and submitting drug tests when requested;
• Refrain from owning any dangerous weapons;
• Not associate with those who are involved with criminal activity;
• Obeying curfew that is set by the AP&P officer; and
• Allowing AP&P officers to visit the offender’s home or work to ensure they are abiding by the rules associated with probation or parole.

Parole conditions also include:

• Living only at an approved residence;
• Obtaining permission before leaving the state;
• Maintaining regular full time employment; and
• Allowing random searches of their person or belongings.

AP&P officers enforce these strict rules and expect regular reporting by offenders until their time on probation and parole are finished.

Life on the outside

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

After completing a stint behind bars or following a successful period on probation or parole, a person who has been legally convicted of a crime is then released back into the community and expected to try and live a normal life. Returning to the free world after a lengthy period of time can be a difficult experience for ex-convicts however. They are often returning to lost jobs and/or homes as well as broken families and public shame. If this isn’t enough, ex-convicts also face what is known as collateral consequences of their conviction that make life after release even more unbearable.

Collateral consequences – civil punishment after release

According to the National Institute of Justice, “Criminal conviction brings with it a host of sanctions and disqualifications that can place an unanticipated burden on individuals trying to re-enter society and lead lives as productive citizens.” These unfamiliar burdens post-conviction are known as collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are civil penalties carried out by the state that are not always mentioned in court. NIJ also stated that collateral consequences “attach not only to felonies and incarcerated individuals but also to misdemeanors and individuals who have never been incarcerated.” Some collateral consequences are well known such as convicted felons not being able to possess firearms or serve on a jury. Others are unexpected and not reserved only for felons.

The harsh reality post-conviction

Photo by: Kathryn Decker

The Utah Sentencing Commission released a document in 2014 that lists 15 difference areas of life that will be affected by having a criminal record. They also listed the the amount of collateral consequences for each area:

Area and number of collateral consequences

• “Employment                                                     435
• Occupational and professional licensing  273
• Business licensing and property rights     234
• Government programs                                     14
• Government loans and grants                         3
• Judicial rights                                                      21
• Government benefits                                         7
• Education                                                             18
• Political/civic participation                            68
• Housing                                                                22
• Family/domestic rights                                   35
• Recreational license/firearms                       20
• Registration and residency restrictions     63
• Motor vehicle licensure                                   41
• General relief provision                                  20
Total                                                                   1,274

Every one of these areas that are critical to living a normal life is affected when a person is a convicted felon. Surprisingly, 12 out of 15 listed areas have collateral consequences for those who have simple misdemeanor conviction on their record.

Legal counsel

It is vital for anyone facing criminal charges to know the ramifications that any charge can carry, whether those implications are criminal penalties or collateral consequences. Before pleading guilty or accepting a plea bargain, discuss all possible criminal and collateral consequences first with an experienced a criminal defense attorney